The Reliable Source Live

Dec 21, 2011

Washington Post columnist Amy Argetsinger /strong> was online Wednesday, Dec. 21, at noon ET to discuss your favorite gossip, celebrity sightings and their recent columns.

Past Reliable Source chats

Welcome to the last Reliable Source online chat of 2011. Here's what's been on our mind this week:


Barney Frank, what are you wearing?!?


Unexpected splits: Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard, Debra Messing and whoever she was married to, among others. . .


Supreme Court spouses pay tribute to the late Martin Ginsburg with a new cookbook.


Why are there never any people in the White House Christmas card?


Did an NYU professor get fired over James Franco's "D" grade?. . . Introducing Loretta Sanchez's 2011 Christmas card. . .  Bet you Kris Humphries wishes he'd married Jon Huntsman's daughter instead. . . Friends bid farewell to Joe Robert. . . Remembering Christopher Hitchens.


But more importantly, who should be the Reliable Source Person of the Year for 2011?



Is it because they think someone will notice they aren't together for the holidays, and they want to get in front of the story? It's a little sad, though, especially the Jessica Lange/Sam Shepherd thing.

Good question. When I heard the Lange/Shepard news, I thought back to the announcement of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon -- whose split also was revealed a couple days before Christmas and about six months after the fact. It might be calculated. But I suspect, too, that all couples are reluctant to broadcast breakup news very quickly -- and that older celebrity couples have the advantage in that the paparazzi world simply doesn't track them as closely. So it may take several months for the good folks at People and US to notice that they're not out in public anymore and thus place that awkward phone call to the publicists. Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard had historically kept a much lower social profile than even Sarandon and Robbins, so they could have been apart for years before anyone noticed -- but her career is suddenly a little hot again, what with that creepy "American Horror Story," so she's inched up on the cultural radar.

All these years I thought she was with Sam Elliot - you know, the voice of "Beef-it's what's for dinner." Then I saw the photo and realized my error because Sam Shepherd does not have a thick mustache you could lose a small dog in.

Understandable confusion, since Sam Elliott is long-term, low-key married to another fetching actress, Katharine Ross.


Sam Shepard, Sam Elliott. Who'd ya rather? (as our friends at TMZ would say).

About the phone hacking stuff...and what impact will this have on his "career"? I never have trusted that guy....

The great American love affair with British accents may have ended when Piers Morgan hit our shores. Ultimately, the phone hacking thing won't matter -- it's all about the ratings.


CNN's Piers Morgan rejects phone hacking allegations

Some outlets are reporting that this costs the taxpayer $4 million. True? Is that typical for a trip for POTUS and his family? Not sure how I should feel about this, especially since both of my adult daughters are going to Hawaii over the holidays for much less....

Sigh. It's the same old, same old every year: Someone calculates how much it cost for any president to travel anywhere, then max outs the retail cost of security, airplanes, fuel, etc. and jumps on the partisan bandwagon. Every president incurs costs whenever he goes anyone -- it's the cost of a mobile White House. Same deal when Bush went to Crawford. The goal with this is to suggest that Obama is somehow taking a lavish vacation. If past history is true this time, he'll personally pay for the family's lodging, meals etc.  The alternative is to say presidents should never go on vacation, which strikes me as unreasonable.

is the Presidents from the Nationals' games having cameos in "The Nutcracker"! Outstanding!

I loved it too. Wish I would have seen them in person, but the video was awesome. Did you see it?

1) people suing over "Avatar" or 2) women who have slept with Kobe Bryant.

Kobe. Takes less time to fool around than write a screenplay.

Is it safe to engage with Sean Penn on an airplane?

Thanks for bringing up my favorite story of the week. Approach him slowly and carefully -- perhaps by first challenging him to a game of Words With Friends.


Sean Penn and Maria Conchita Alonso in political shouting match at LAX

Is it too late to do any Christmas shopping for Amy?

It is never too late to do any Christmas shopping for Amy.

Now I know what to get my congressman for Christmas! Doesn't seem to be improving the professionalism, though, which is usually the purpose for having a dress code in the first place.

If only civility came with the coat and tie. They really ought to be waering boxing gloves.

I saw that this sold for $864,000. I thought they had to be returned to the Academy and could not be sold? Who bought it?

Though David Copperfield, of all people, tried to bid on it, the winning buyer remains anonymous. Orson Welles's daughter had a long legal battle with the Academy over her right to sell it, but she ultimately prevailed. I think it was sometime after 1941 that the Academy set the rule saying you can't sell the Oscar, so they would have been grandfathered in, I guess.

They used to call Pat Nixon "Plastic Pat." Seems to me more appropriate for Callista Gingrich - never a hair out of place.

This Slate reporter attempted to replicate Callista Gingrich's hairdo -- and gained a newfound respect for her.

Has Jimmy Fallon ever hosted? I bet he'd be GREAT! Even for that difficult audience.....

Nope, though I think his name has been in the mix.

provided one more reason why I will miss Barney Frank! Always good for a chuckle.

You're welcome.

As reporters love nothing more than to write about themselves, can we just give the award to Christopher Hitchens, and call it the Christopher Hitchens Reliable Source Person of the Year?

Brilliant idea. Why, as Hitch once told me . . .


Thanks for your vote.

Hands down Sam Elliott. I'd vote him Sexiest Man Alive year after year!

Thanks for your vote.

Already off for the holiday?

That's what I get for slow typing.

I once washed their plates. I worked at a restaurant in high school not far from her home town and the two of them were apparently visiting her family and stopped by with their kids to eat. The waitress brought me their dirty dishes and said "Jessica Lange ate from this plate." I washed it anyway.

That is a beautiful story, thank you.

What did you think about Katha Pollitt's take on him in The Nation? He really does seem to have been a male taste, both as a writer and as a friend. Men found him entertaining and erudite company, women more often saw him as an obnoxious drunk prone to misogyny,

 Christopher was a handful any way you cut it and never suffered fools.  As for misogyny:  I always found him to be utterly charming and erudite, but didn't know him well enough to see him behaving badly to anyone. So I'll have to leave that to those who were closer to him. 

Doesn't that money go into the economy, too? Sort of like a holiday stimulus package....

Sure. Texas, Hawaii, whatever. It's one of those stupid annual partisan beefs that always comes up. I think you can argue presidents should go on vacation or never go on vacation, but to suggest that this is a Republican or Democratic issue is silly. 

Sam Elliott. I have dreams about him. Deep sigh. Ever seen him in the movie "Frogs"? It shows up late night on the weird movie channel, and includes Ray Milland too.

I learn so much from you people. I never knew there was such a movie. ("A group of hapless victims is invited to an island estate crawling with evil frogs," 1972)

Sam Elliott shirtless, stache-less, in "Frogs"

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes preferred to Tom Cruise in MI. Both preferred to violent Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.

I'm gearing up for "War Horse" and will -- I aready know-- cry. What can I say? I'm a sap.

What is the appropriate holiday tip for the Washington Post delivery person?

I agonize over this myself every year. I don't know -- $20? I think you have to assume that they're getting a lot of other tips but that, at the same time,  a lot of customers don't bother.

Snail mail or e-mail?

Oh, snail mail, don't you think?

I feel a little dirty for saying this but definitely Sam Elliott. Not quite sure how old he is but that deep, snarly voice of his is kind of sexy. BTW - don't stoop to TMZ questions on your chat - it kindens of cheapens it:)

Hey, it takes a lot of effort to look this cheap.

...admitted Havel, turned away Kim and is still pretending not to see Hitchens.

Or Hitchens is deciding whether to go in. Depends on the bars in Heaven.

Did he retire? I cannot remember seeing him in anything since that awful Pelican Brief in 1993.

He's working all the damn time, according to his IMDB page. Forgot he was in "The Notebook." Apparently he's in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," which has been sitting on top of my TV, unwatched, for a couple years now. I hear it's great, though.

Love Barney Frank, but if you are a man and more than a 32B, you should not wear those kind of shirts on the Hill floor.

I didn't read newspapers over the weekend so fell a little behind -- have any more sons or daughters of presidents been hired as serious national newsmen and women? Please catch me up.

No, thank goodness. I keep expecting Patti Davis to launch a self-help talk show.

Every once in a while some obscure cable channel will run one of my fav Sam Elliot movies -- Lifeguard -- in which he looks remarkably like Mark Spitz. Speedo isn't quite as tiny, but he looks good. Parker Stevenson (Kirstie Alley's ex) is in it too -- he plays a lifeguard who's bound for law school, while Sam, who's 30ish, can't seem to break away from the beach.

This sounds like an excellent movie.

Me, I'd pick Sam Neill. Or Sam Seaborn of "The West Wing"!

I haven't seen Sam Neill in anything in ages, but how I love him. Ever see "Reilly: Ace of Spies"?

Is the column running through the holidays?

You mean us? You've got Reliable Source for a couple more days, then I'm crawling under the Christmas tree and sleeping for a week. Can't speak for Amy's plans. We'll be back after the New Year. 

In the late 1980s, a friend and I went to take the waters in Berkeley Springs, West Va. A completely naked woman sat down next to my massage table, and she was signing autographs. I had to ask the masseuse who she was after she had sauntered away, and I was told it was Jessica Lange and that she and Sam S. were in West Va. filming that Patsy Cline biopic. My friend and I wanted to immediately crash the men's side of the bathhouse to see if we could find Sam S. in the nude!

You crazy kids.

RIP Great Leader.

Did your crying-in-the-street shift finally end?

On top of your TV for a couple years, huh? I saw it awhile ago. Felt a few years long. Darn thing kept going and going and going.

That was the conventional wisdom, but Desson Thomson swears by it.

Oh, my goodness, I know this is uncharitable, but I can't believe she is 45. Am I alone in thinking she looks much older?

It's really just her aesthetic. Because she dresses like a Reagan-era socialite, your brain is conditioned to assume she is the same age as the other women who still dress that way. Take that away, and I think she looks her age, no older.

Forget the White House card - can we talk about that San Juan mayor's card? THAT is some craziness right there. Who thought that would be an attractive holiday image?

Go take another look at the San Juan mayor's card. Really a treat.

Someone told me she lives in Charlottesville. True?

They did for many years, but I think they relocated to Minnesota more than a decade ago.

Most obnoxious person of 2011. I imagine Alec Baldwin would get a few votes from flight attendants, but what about in general? I know, it's like a beauty contest; so many worthy competitors to choose from.

Just when Alec Baldwin was becoming loveable again, he pulls off this stunt.

I can see several, but my vote goes to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge nee Middleton. She maintained attention all year, most of it positive.

Thanks for your vote.

regarding Christopher Hitchens, but what did you think of his discussion of having had affairs with men when he was young? Goes on more than you might think, but straight-identified men usually don't talk about it.

Everyone saves the best stuff for the memoir.

being admitted to Heaven? What's up with that?

Well -- for one thing--it's fun. I like the idea of Chris being confronted with the very thing that his intellect could not accept. Religious beliefs, at their core, transcend reason (despite the best efforts of the Jesuits) and you have to accept that or not believe.

So someone is suing over the script for Avatar? With all respect for the special effects, someone would actually admit to writing that?

Reading over his list of alleged script similarities, I realized I have basically no recollection of what happened in that movie.

Hey thanks for the link. As a former DNC employee, her Christmas card was always a highlight of the season. I think we kept the one with her fluffy white cat up FOREVER.

Which one? Gretzky was in so many of her cards over the years.

He has perhaps the most difficult job in the world. Let me him go on vacation. I mean this in a non-partisan way - I felt the same way about Bush.

I'm all for the guys taking a break to recharge. BTW, I just visited Harry Truman's winter White House in Key West. Do you know, he spent about 120 days there over his eight years in office? But he was working a lot of the time, of course.

Ashton Kutcher 1. For taking over for Charlie Sheen. 2. For putting Demi Moore back into the dating pool.

You know, I hope Demi doesn't feel the need to strike up a retaliatory camera-ready fauxmance like the one Jennifer Lopez has going -- er, never mind.

I sat near her at a play in New York about ten years ago. She looked stunning. That is all.

Anyone else have a Jessica Lange brush with greatness? Speak now.

That's always a highlight of my Christmas.

Egad----you must have missed Monday's column, where we published an update revealing her 2011 card:

Is there video? I haven't seen it!!

Bottom of the post. Feast your eyes.


Racing presidents in "Nutcracker" (video)

She grew up in Cloquet, which, as I'm sure Roxanne can tell you, is pronounced klo-KAY. The town's economy was based on paper mills, four or five of them, that produced some of the foulest odors to attack a nose, and on some days, when the weather was right, you could smell the malodorous cloud from my house, a good 30 miles away, like the mills were across the street.

So. . . you're saying the Jessica Lange Birthplace Gift Store isn't worth the trip?

I think a more important issue is how much time the president spends on vacation, ie, not paying close attention to what's going on in the world. Bush was briefed in August 2001 about Al Qaeda's plans to attack the US, but he was in Crawford when the briefing happened, and maybe wasn't so focused on his job. He spent an extraordinary amount of time on the ranch - something in excess of 7 weeks a year throughout his presidency.

We can debate all we want about this, but I'm not sure Bush would have made a different choice if he had been in Washington. President may take vacations, but they never really get to stop working. The point is what they pay attention to, period.

That was exactly what I was thinking of when I made my nomination. He was also in a little film titled "Jurassic Park."

Yeah, there was that. Always breaks my heart a little when one of my thespian crushes is subsumed by CGI. Though I didn't hold "300" against Dominic West.

But to hear Christopher Hitchens, men hit on him constantly when he was young. He said that it was a great disappointment when his looks had deteriorated enough that only women were interested in him. He also claimed to have had an affair with a future Tory cabinet minister, but that may have been a joke.

Ah, vanity. Pops up in the oddest ways, really.

He reminded me of William F. Buckley. Funny when he was on your side, but Hitch needed a Gore Vidal to occasionally deflate his ego.

Ah, but journalists loved WFB too. We tend to swoon for writers with swagger, since so few of us have it.

'The alternative is to say presidents should never go on vacation, which strikes me as unreasonable.' Really, Presidents never DO go on vacation, as they are working whether or not they are at the White House, the beach, or anyplace. They are on duty every. single. day. I for one would like them to at least enjoy a change of scene once and a while, and their families certainly deserve a break.

Personally, I find an occassionally break the difference between sanity and complete meltdown.

Do you mean my computer? I'm confused.

Shut up, you. I'm going to create a paywall just for you.

Warning: I read a review that said "bring a box of Kleenex."

I'm planning not to wear mascara.

I propose that all presidents get government-paid vacations at Camp David (isn't that was it's for, anyway?) and have to pay the full cost of all vacations elsewhere. That way, some of the more extravagant expenses would be avoided, but the president and his (her?) family would have a nice place to chill out.

Nice enough, unless you like oceans.  I don't think that will ever fly.

As with every holiday, I'm trying to figure out what movie I can sneak out of the house and see on Christmas day. Is there anything out there worth seeing?

Well, there's a charming little heartwarmer called "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" -- bound to become a holiday classic.  If you like fake Swedish accents and kinky serial killers, this one's for you! Actually, I don't recommend it strongly. I'm with Hornaday on this one. "Silence of the Lingonberries."

I'm friends with a Secret Service agent and I asked him one time what I thought about the criticism behind Obama's travels. He looked at me incredulously and said "Do you know how many times we went to Crawford and how much time we spent in that *blankety blank* place", and yes, that cost the taxpayer as well, many times over, so get over it. And when your daughters are leaders of the free world, then I'm sure their travel expenses will increase accordingly.

Like I said.

The Christmas card is cute but I love their family portrait. What a beautiful family.

Good genes.

"Sweet Dreams" was released in 1985. That means it was shot probably in 1984. They lived in Charlottesville, so I'm guessing that they probably went to the hot springs in W. Va pretty often, including in the late 80s.

Thank you for clarifying the Jessica Lange timeline.

Is that the place with the six-toed cats?

No, that would be Ernest Hemingway's house, a few blocks away. I don't know why Harry didn't try to get himself a few six-toed cats, though -- they're amazing. Maybe it was a national security thing.

hee. i love that the little girl is working it though.

They look like a fun family.

Gotta love a guy who told Lou Reed that he never would have become president without him.

Yeah, and better still that it's probably true. Blast from the past: Reed performed at a state dinner in 1998 for Havel:

Really, she did.

The Guardian argues that Mariah Carey already did, what with her humorless wall-rubbing in an NC-17 Santa suit, and I think they have a point.

I saw Sam Shepard in the San Antonio airport about 20 years ago. He was standing in the corner trying to not be recognized. No wait, that was Tommy Lee Jones. Wrong mid-1980s country singer biopic.

TLJ was in the better of the two country-singer biopics. But they're both fairly awesome.

Sam Elliott was in The Big Lebowski. Sam Shepard wasn't. Sam Elliott wins.

Thanks for your vote.

I once walked down the street in NY near enough to be able to stretch the story into walking "next to" him. He's very slender. A friend was in a jewelry store in Charlottesville in the mid 80s, when he came up to her and asked her how she liked a pair of diamond earrings. She did. My husband has old, old friends who were the other couple getting married in the ceremony in which he and O-Lan Jones got married.

Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange are totally outpacing Christopher Hitchens in this chat.

Did that work? My recent-college-graduate daughter has just landed a job in the DC area and we would like to get her a gift card to do some professional work clothes shopping. Nothing too boutique - she needs everything and I don't have a sky's-the-limit budget ... Nothing too fuddy duddy (apparently what I wear ...). Ideas? Thank you! Also, pearl earrings or gold hoop? Merry Christmas!

Not sure who counts as Your Coolness, but my thoughts: Gold hoops, but not bigger than 1 1/2". More versatile, can be dressy or casual. As for clothes: Ann Taylor? Lots of reasonably priced classic separates, plenty of sales? Chatters, what do you think?

My parents got the Obama Christmas card. The picture is nice, but it's HUGE, like 12" x 12". My mom almost threw it out because she though it was junk mail.

Then she's on the A-list. Most people get the little version; special friends get the larger print.

Did you know that Jessica Lange is starring in the movie version of The Big Valley, playing the Barbara Stanwyk role? Also starring Richard Dreyfuss, Lee Majors, and Aiden Quinn. This might be the best movie ever made. Someone named Sara Paxton is playing Linda Evans.

I really thought you made this one up -- because you'd totally do that, wouldn't you? But it's true, it's real, and apparently coming out next year.

Barney was on Rachel Maddow's show Monday night as well and I wondered why he looked like he just came from the gym. Now you cleared that up for me. Thanks.

Glad to help.

That opened right after King Kong, but closed right after True North, her and Sam's movie about small-town northerners that mostly portrayed them as rubes and morons. People were kind of upset with Jessica for awhile after that. Fame and Oscar nominations forgive only so many sins.

Fair enough, but "Fargo" was pretty much the same thing and the bashlash wasn't so bad.

This year, instead of setting New Years Resolutions for myself, I'm giving some to my friends. Do you have any Resolutions for us?

Yes. You should work on your posture and drink more water.


Sorry -- I know that's like the gift card of resolution-gifting, but the best I could do.

I vote for Newt Gingrich as the person of the year. Because if he is now the top Republican pres. candidate, that either says a lot about him or their party.

Thanks for your vote.

I miss him

Me too. He's now a speechwriter for the State Department.

Doesn't the list begin and end with Herman Cain?

Thanks for your vote.

Gave me horrible nightmares in my youth... Pre-cable, the only thing to watch when you were babysitting and the kids were in bed ... AARRGH! But I'll take Elliott, thank you very much.

I wonder how hard it is to find DVD copies of "Frogs" to give to all my loved ones this Christmas?

Roxanne, don't you make gingerbread houses? We need a pix!

Did a few this year, including one for Zoolights and and "Gingy's Palace" (with gingerbread showgirls) for this year's Gingertown "Elf Vegas." Check the entire thing out:

With that, dear chatters, we bid farewell to 2011. You're awesome, and we'll see you back here in two weeks. Have a wonderful holiday! HoHoHo! 


In This Chat
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Washington Post columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts discuss your favorite gossip, celebrity sightings and their recent columns.

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